OK, Blue Jays. Let’s play ball.
After well over a year (670 days, to be exact) without baseball – and sports in general – the boys of summer will play in front of fans on Friday night for the first time since September 2019.
It’s been nearly 22 months since avid supporters have been able to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – amid a breakout season – tear the cover of a fastball down the middle at Rogers Centre.
Unless you could catch a game in Dunedin, Fla. or Buffalo, N.Y. to see them, fans haven’t witnessed lefty ace Hyun-Jin Ryu or big free-agent signing George Springer live in a Blue Jays uniform at all.
That’s about to change.
After being approved by the federal government to play home games in Toronto again, 15,000 fans will be allowed into the Rogers Centre starting Friday when the team begins a three-game homestand against the Kansas City Royals.
To say a lot has changed would be an understatement as there will be several public health measures and restrictions in place and moving forward.
680 NEWS was granted an early inside look at the Rogers Centre to see how staff plan to welcome back fans.
Entry to the ballpark:
Blue Jays personnel say it’s all about making fans feel at home and comfortable. Strict mobile ticketing for contact tracing purposes will be applied. Here are some more examples.
- Symptom screening check
- Masks must be worn at all times while seated (unless while eating or drinking) and while exploring the concourse.
- Employees will hand out masks at gates upon entry
- Physical distances enforced
- Enhanced cleaning before, during and after games
Per the latest provincial reopening guidelines, 15,000 fans will be the max capacity for now. In contrast, the Rogers Centre can hold upwards of 45,000 fans during ordinary circumstances. Free t-shirts will be given to fans with the date and “Home” written on the front.
There are two types of bowl seating options available for fans: standard or physically distanced. Standard physical distancing measures will also apply.
Officials say bathrooms will be heavily sanitized before and after games. There will be designated entry and exit points designed so attendees can move quickly to avoid crowding. There will also be a max capacity for people using these facilities.
Concessions, water access, and Jays Shop
As much as you may have missed the Blue Jays, we know you have been secretly craving one of those footlong hot dogs. An ice-cold beer? Yeah, we get it.
The Rogers Centre will be completely cashless, meaning it’s debit or credit for you. Health and safety protocols will be enforced at all times, with food cooked fresh and wrapped individually as a result. The concession stands menus have been modified with pre-packaged items to avoid crowding and reduce touch points.
There will be touchless water dispensers scattered across the concourse for easy access.
Eager to buy Blue Jays merchandise to show off your fandom? A Springer jersey? A Vladdy t-shirt? We don’t blame you.
Similarly, the Jays Shop will be completely cashless (debit, credit, gift cards) and operate under regular hours. The store has been closed since November due to the pandemic.
Staff say the store is fully stocked, and there will be a max capacity of 100 people allowed inside. Security will stand outside to count.
Seating and tickets:
It bears repeating: A mask must be worn at all times, even while seated unless eating or drinking. Fans must remain seated when the game is in action.
As mentioned, there are two types of bowl seating options available for fans: standard or physically distanced. Tickets in the “100L and 200L” infield and TD Clubhouse are standard seating, while those in the 100L and 200L outfield and bases are physically distanced pods of up to four seats.
TD Executive Suites are operating at limited capacity with a minimum of six tickets.
The WestJet Flight Deck will be open for standing room as usual. Although, “pods” of up to six people will be outlined for those wishing to watch part of the game in the outfield, socially distanced.
The team also announced it would host 250 frontline workers in a complimentary seating section for each of the 10 games.
Season ticket holders for 2021 and 2022 gained access to tickets earlier last week.
Tickets for games from Friday to August 8 went on sale to the general public on July 22. Tickets for future games will be announced later to ensure the latest health and safety protocols are in place.
General gameday updates/retractable roof:
All in all, personnel say their goal is to deliver the ultimate fan experience. President Mark Shapiro said they’re hoping to keep the roof open as often as possible to encourage proper airflow.
Interestingly, officials say that the roof could stay open even with inclement weather. With extreme weather and the roof being fully closed, stadium doors will remain open. A pre-game ceremony will be held on Friday, similar to opening day, and “Home Plate Lady” will deliver the first pitch.
Officials are encouraging fans to arrive at the park no later than 6:30 p.m. tomorrow. As for in-stadium upgrades, personnel say a new field was installed with an improved turf system. An extra pad was placed under the two-tone turf. They also expanded the size of dugouts to create more space.
Rogers is the parent company of 680 NEWS.
With files from 680 NEWS Digital Lead Andrew Osmond